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Vehicle Veers Into People Leaving Ramadan Services In North London


In London this morning, another tragic attack. This time people leaving Ramadan services from two local mosques in the north of the city were plowed down by a man driving a van. One person died on the scene. Others were injured. Prime Minister Theresa May spoke about the incident earlier this morning.


PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY: This was an attack on Muslims near their place of worship. And like all terrorism, in whatever form, it shares the same fundamental goal. It seeks to drive us apart and to break the precious bonds of solidarity and citizenship that we share in this country.

GREENE: The prime minister says police declared the attack a terrorist incident within eight minutes. A 48-year-old man is in custody now. We are joined by The Guardian's police and crime correspondent Vikram Dodd, who has been reporting from the scene. And it's a reminder of what Britain has been dealing with because we spoke to you not so long ago after the terrorist attack in Manchester. Vikram, thanks for coming back on.

VIKRAM DODD: Yes. We must stop meeting like this.

GREENE: I agree with that. So what was the scene like this morning when you were out there?

DODD: The scene was people milling on the streets. It's a very warm period of weather over here. And people, mainly Muslim people, were gathered just in some degree of shock, horror, anger, concern that this had happened. I think they'd had a almost fear verging on something on the back of their mind whether something like - something might happen. But I don't think anybody's expecting it at this time, at this place and in this way.

GREENE: What do we know about the attacker, this man in custody?

DODD: We don't know a huge amount. As I keep saying, our criminal justice system is very different to yours, so they don't give us that much information that quickly. But he's 48. He appears to have been in the van on his own. And he appears to have said a few things. He's - I think he said at one stage that he get - he plows into these people, and he tries to escape. He's caught by the members of the - who were passersby, people who had been at, you know, the services after prayers. And they hold on to him. I think some throw the old punch his way, but others protect him.

And then he's taken to - handed over to the police. And he - I want to say (unintelligible) is heard saying kill me. And then when he's placed in the police van in safety, he keeps - a video out shows him giving a wave as if he's goading the people as he's safely in the police van with the crowd now on the other side of the door of the police van. So I mean that's just - God knows what was going through his mind at that stage.

GREENE: It's - what an extraordinary scene. I mean you're describing literally almost like a citizen's arrest with some of the people who have left prayers holding on to him, others trying to punch him while others are trying to protect him. I mean that - God, the emotion there - I can't even imagine.

DODD: Yeah, I mean it's an astonishing scene. I mean, you know, I think there was one of the (unintelligible) inconsistent with trying to stop him from escaping. But there's a local imam who is - we always have to be careful. First accounts are often wrong. And there seems to be a number of people saying that one of the local imams stepped in to say, let's hand him over to the police; let's do this the proper way. And others were like that as well, which is, you know, remarkable given what's just happened. People were literally in fear for their lives. They don't know whether this person has a knife. They don't know if there's something in the van. They don't know if there's other attackers - yeah, incredible.

GREENE: We spoke earlier with the president of the Muslim Association of Britain who said that Islamophobic attacks are on the rise in Britain. Are you seeing that?

DODD: What we have is phenomenon here where there's a baseline of attacks of hate crimes that we've had. We had spikes last summer after the Brexit votes which was directed against general ethnic minorities. And then we've had spikes after the attacks in Manchester and London Bridge. They say they're on the rise. The figures seem to bear them out. They spike, but then they fall back.

GREENE: OK. Vikram Dodd is the police and crime correspondent for The Guardian newspaper. He was on the scene this morning after people were attacked, leaving two mosques in north London this morning. Vikram, thanks very much.

DODD: Thank you very much. Cheers. Bye. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.